I first saw the trailer for Under the Silver Lake about a year and a half ago. First it was pushed back one month. Then, it was pushed back another six. After seeing the trailer almost every time I went to the Alamo Drafthouse, I begin to see it less and less. Soon, the trailer and the movie were forgotten. When I saw that it was scheduled to be shown yet again, I knew I had to see it. Sure, I could stream it somewhere, but I had to watch it in theaters.
I am not sure if there was a movie more set up to disappoint me. After being completely sucked in by the trailer, I have had to wait over a year to finally see it. The fact that it had been pushed back so many times should have been a sign that I should move on. To my surprise, not only is Under the Silver Lake not disappointing, it is actually a fun and interesting movie.
Sam (Andrew Garfield) seemingly has no direction in his life. One day he meets Sarah (Riley Keough), a new tenant at the apartment complex his is about to be evicted from. They hang out one night and Sam becomes immediately enamored. When Sarah suddenly disappears, Sam is drawn into a conspiracy that touches on the class divide, image, and what is important in life.
Under the Silver Lake is a very odd movie. It deals with so many themes. Some are very obvious. The story is a sexually charged one that is constantly pushing the importance of sex. Others are more obtuse. There seems to be a theme of the uber rich and powerful knowing more than the rest of the world. Or maybe they theme is they are so isolated they can only communicate with each other and do things that defy logic. Or maybe it is self image is tied to wealth. It is hard to say because the writing touches on each of these things.
Most movies suffer from this lack of focus, yet Under the Silver Lake somehow thrives from it. Using the weird Hollywood scene as its backdrop, the plot is a very engaging one that draws its audience in. But this is more than your standard missing person story. Under the Silver Lake does differently is it almost makes the mystery secondary to the many messages. Yet in delivering its many messages, the mystery is furthered. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell does a great job of juggling a number of different plots and making them all seem equally important.
Mitchell’s direction is great. Shots are framed beautifully, sometimes zooming in on a character’s face yet at the same time keeping the background in full focus. This gives the impression of the character and the audience having a direct conversation. This is not a case of breaking the fourth wall; this is just good camera work. Mitchell also does a great job with the movie’s many settings, giving it a great noir feel. (The entire movie has a very Mulholland Drive vibe)
The soundtrack is exceptional. A combination of current music, 1990’s alternative, old time Hollywood, and hard boiled detective saxophone works perfectly with the writing and direction. The different types of music help set the atmosphere for the film. Great noirs have a certain look, sound and feel to them, and Under the Silver Lake is no different.
Under the Silver Lake has one glaring problem. It runs way too long. The mystery is interesting, but since the story touches on so many themes, some of it comes of as unimportant. By the end of the movie, much there are many unanswered questions. Some themes do not seem like they were explored enough while others seem like they were given too much time. The weirdest thing is even though a hour could have been shaved from off, the resolution still felt rushed.
After a year and half, I finally was able to see Under the Silver Lake in theaters. I was expecting an intriguing movie that ultimately left me thinking, “Almost two years for this?” Instead, it is a witty and interesting movie that had me on the edge of my seat. The acting, music, and direction are superb and make up for the erratic writing. This is a movie worth your time; just make sure you have plenty of it.